The steady state levels of RNAs, often referred to as expression levels, result from a well-balanced combination of RNA transcription and decay. Alterations in RNA levels will therefore result from tight regulation of transcription rates, decay rates or both. Here, we explore the role of RNA stability in achieving balanced gene expression and present genome-wide RNA stabilities in Drosophila melanogaster male and female cells as well as male cells depleted of proteins essential for dosage compensation. We identify two distinct RNA-stability mediated responses involved in regulation of gene expression. The first of these responds to acute and global changes in transcription and thus counteracts potentially harmful gene mis-expression by shifting the RNA stability in the direction opposite to the transcriptional change. The second response enhances inter-individual differential gene expression by adjusting the RNA stability in the same direction as a transcriptional change. Both mechanisms are global, act on housekeeping as well as non-housekeeping genes and were observed in both flies and mammals. Additionally, we show that, in contrast to mammals, modulation of RNA stability does not detectably contribute to dosage compensation of the sex-chromosomes in D. melanogaster.
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.